If you are one of those individuals who asks what’s the worst that could possibly happen if you wear fake jewelry, now might be the time for you to rethink your beliefs.
Even though fake or cheap fashion and costume jewelry offer the easiest ways of accessorizing and you could own hundreds of pairs of fake jewelry without causing a big dent in your monthly or weekly budget, taking into consideration some of the negative effects that result from wearing some of the fake jewelry around might force you to rethink your past habits and decisions, opting for fewer pairs or more expensive jewelry instead.
This article will help you understand just how bad some of the effects of fake jewelry are and how you could protect yourself, especially if you are a fan of fake jewelry.
Bad effects of wearing fake jewelry – Fake Jewelry Allergies
The primary reason for avoiding fake jewelry has to do with the fact that the jewelry often causes bad skin allergies. These allergic reactions occur when your skin comes in contact with specific metals in the jewelry or when the healing pierced area comes in contact with the metals that cause the allergies. The allergic reaction is often known as contact dermatitis, and it’s characterized by redness and an itchy rash. And though the rash is not life-threatening or contagious, it’s very uncomfortable.
Interestingly, most of the people suffering metal allergies after wearing certain kinds of jewelry are allergic to just one metal – nickel. Nickel is often used as the base metal for most of the inexpensive jewelry. As a result, you only notice symptoms of allergic reactions after wearing the jewelry repeatedly or after prolonged exposure to the components of jewelry. So, if you have sensitive or super-sensitive skin, you might want to stop wearing jewelry that contains nickel.
Why wearing fake jewelry cause allergies?
The primary reason why wearing fake jewelry causes allergies is, as mentioned above, primarily attributed to nickel allergies. This happens because even though most people are allergic to metals, the metal most people are often allergic to is nickel.
Nickel allergies don’t have an actual known cause, but the allergies are believed to spark from the overactivity of the immune system to nickel, a reaction that forces your immune system to treat nickel ions as foreign bodies, fighting off the ions in the same way that it would fight parasites, viruses, and bacteria.
As mentioned above, most fake jewelry is made with nickel, which is often used as the base metal. Nickel is used because it has highly desirable properties like durability, strength, and great color, but there is always the risk of allergies. To reduce the risk of irritation, most of the jewelry with nickel is plated with 14k, 18k, platinum, or rhodium, meaning there is a layer of protection initially. Unfortunately, when the fake jewelry with nickel is worn repeatedly, the protective coating wears out, the skin comes in contact with the nickel, and you will develop an adverse reaction to the nickel. In most cases, this takes place after some weeks, but you will mostly notice the skin’s reaction in a 24-48 hours window, depending on your skin’s sensitivity.
Keep in mind that you could still suffer an allergic reaction when wearing cheap gold or gold plated jewelry, especially if the jewelry is made of low karat gold. This is often the case where the gold alloying process is made possible by the mixing of pure gold with metal alloys like copper, silver, zinc, and nickel. With the lower karat gold, there is a high content of metal alloys used to make the gold, for example, 10k or 14k, and this leaves a big room for more nickel being incorporated into the gold jewelry. This is also the case with white gold – although white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium, it’s often made of pure gold mixed with silver or palladium and a larger percentage of nickel; meaning that once the rhodium plating starts to wear off, your sensitive skin is in contact with nickel, and an allergic reaction will ensue.
In addition to the metals used in the fake jewelry making playing a huge role in nickel allergies and other metal sensitivity reactions, there are other factors that increase the risk of metal allergies or contact dermatitis. They include:
- Working around/ with the metal you are allergic to– If your line of work involves working with and coming in contact with the metal you are allergic to constantly, the risk of reacting to that metal increases. This is especially true when you are constantly exposed to the metals in wet form, say through sweating or when your skin or the metal comes in contact with water.
- Being female– yes, it doesn’t sound fair – nothing is. But females are at higher risk of metal allergies because they often have more piercings that expose them to metal allergies.
- Family history– this is the other factor that you don’t have control over, but it could mean a higher risk of metal allergies. Some family members are allergic to some metals, and you may inherit this disposition to allergies.
Some Symptoms of jewelry Allergic Reaction
Now that we know what causes jewelry reactions and some of the risk factors you should be aware of let’s look at the common symptoms of jewelry allergic reactions.
For starters, it’s important to note that most jewelry or metal allergies start after 24-48 hours after you’ve been exposed to the allergens. From the first time you notice the symptoms of the allergy, those symptoms may last for 2 – 4 weeks in some cases, reappearing whenever the metal is in contact with your skin.
Most people note that the symptoms of metal allergies resemble the reaction that happens after your skin comes in contact with poison ivy. Specifically, however, some of these symptoms include:
- Tenderness around the affected area
- Irritation and Itchiness
- Dry skin patches that look like burns
- Draining fluid
How to wear fake jewelry when allergic?
The information above tells you that there is always a risk that is associated with wearing cheap jewelry. In extreme cases and after adverse reactions, especially after repeated contact with the metal allergen, the affected area might turn moist, or in worse cases, the skin could be broken, red, raw, and painful from all the scratching. When this happens, you might want to see your dermatologist for treatment. You should also see the dermatologist if the affected area turns yellow, if it weeps, looks crusty, or has a foul odor. These are signs of an infected rash, and it will not heal unless treated.
But, when it’s all said and done, most of us cannot afford fine jewelry, especially not a good range of fine jewelry, which means that we still wear a lot of fake/ costume jewelry.
Since this is the case and the reality for most of us, here are some of the things you could do to protect yourself when wearing fake jewelry, especially if you are allergic.
- Remove the suspect jewelry and stop wearing it to observe your skin’s reaction.
- Apply a dermatologist-approved steroid cream on the rash’s surface to help heal the rash. This cream will fight further prevent the inflammation of the affected area. The commonly prescribed steroid creams include corticosteroid creams, oral corticosteroids, non-steroidal creams, and oral antihistamines. The prescribed medication depends on the severity of the inflammation or irritation and the overall symptoms of the allergy.
- You could also use soothing or emollient creams like calamine lotion, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly to reduce irritation. Just make sure that you are moisturizing regularly. Allergens disrupt your skin’s natural barrier, hence the need for extra moisturizing.
- You could also use a wet compress to relieve itching and soothe blisters. Just make sure that the cloth you use is clean.
- Don’t use over-the-counter antibiotic creams or ointments. Neomycin in these creams will worsen the allergies.
Finally, only wear nickel-free jewelry. And apply a coat of clear nail polish if you must wear fake jewelry, and you are allergic.
Allergic to fake jewelry? What can you wear?
- Look for hypoallergenic jewelry – these are made of 18k gold, titanium, 925 sterling silver, surgical-grade, nickel-free stainless steel, or platinum.
- Avoid all kinds of jewelry containing nickel-free metals. Read the labeling and ask the jeweler for clarification or confirmation of the presence or absence of nickel.
- Wear higher karat gold jewelry if you must wear gold jewelry, and avoid gold-plated jewelry
- If you must wear cheap jewelry, create a barrier for the skin using clear nail polish. This limits the allergens’ contact with the skin. Apply about 3 coats of polish and reapply after wearing the jewelry a few times.
- Get piercings from reputable piercers or piercing studio
Fake jewelry could cost you significantly more in the future if you have sensitive skin. For the large part, you should avoid costume jewelry containing nickel, and if you notice irritation a day or two after wearing certain earrings or necklace, take them off for some time and go jewelry-free to see if things change.
After you’ve identified the culprit, stop wearing it. If you must wear that pair of earrings because it’s your favorite, coat it in clear nail polish often to protect the skin. Lastly, don’t wear jewelry if you notice any of the allergy symptoms above.
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Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.